Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Libya Debate Heats Up; Romney Speaks Out About Election Loss; What's On The New Benghazi Video?; U.N. Ambassador Under Fire From GOP; Dear Mr. President; Self-Driving Cars Hit The Road; President Obama Visits Storm-Damaged New York
Aired November 15, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: lawmakers lashing out at the president, the news media and each other. Tempers flare as Congress probes the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. You're about to hear a tape of Senator John McCain's contentious exchange with CNN.
Also, we have seen pictures like this of the Benghazi compound on September 11, but today for the first time lawmakers are seeing surveillance video of the assault that killed the United States ambassador, three other Americans. I will talk to one U.S. senator about what that video shows.
And Mitt Romney's speaking out about his election loss blaming what he calls gifts, that's a quote, gifts, the president people gave to people who voted for him.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tempers flaring on Capitol Hill. Senator John McCain lashing out at one of our CNN producers who questioned why he was missing a key hearing on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. McCain has been a sharp critic of the president and his administration, complaining lawmakers are not getting enough information.
And when asked why he missed that meeting today, he lashed out.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on Capitol Hill. She's got more on this sensitive story.
Dana, what happened?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it turns out, Wolf, that CNN learned that most of the Republicans on this key committee that had a briefing on what happened in Benghazi did not go. In fact, it was three out of the eight Republicans on that committee.
One of those Republicans who did not go to that briefing, it was a classified briefing, was John McCain. Now, McCain at the time was having a press conference yesterday lashing out at the administration for not getting enough information and calling for a select committee to investigate it all. Well, our Ted Barrett caught up with the senator earlier today and wanted to know why he didn't go to that briefing. And to say the least, it did not go well. Listen to what happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TED BARRETT, CNN PRODUCER: Why can't you comment about that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment. And who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: So John McCain would not comment, would not give an answer to Ted who was trying to do his job, trying to find out just why Senator McCain didn't go to that briefing.
And Senator McCain went onto say he thought Ted was badgering him and not being respectful, which you know Ted Barrett, he is respectful. I will tell you though that later in the day Senator McCain's spokesman contacted us saying that the reason he didn't attend that classified briefing was because of a scheduling error.
I should also tell you that Senator McCain has been inside the briefing that's going on right now. You probably see this podium behind me. That's because we're waiting for the Senate Intelligence chairwoman and ranking to come out of a classified briefing. And again Senator McCain is at this briefing at this hour.
BLITZER: Why couldn't he have just said that to begin with, told Ted Barrett, I had a scheduling problem, a scheduling error, if you will, and I screwed up? That would have ended the controversy.
BASH: That's a great question, Wolf. It's what Ted and I were talking about the minute he told me about this exchange. Why didn't he just say that? He certainly has answers for many of us in the hallways a lot. In fact, he just walked out temporarily of this meeting that's going on right now.
And other reporters were asking why he wasn't at that classified briefing yesterday. And that's what he said. I had a scheduling error. So tempers are flaring here. I think that exchange with Ted Barrett is probably a good example of how heated this issue has gotten, a lot of people, particularly, as we have seen over the past couple days, Senator McCain.
BLITZER: Yes. We all screw up from time to time. People make mistakes and then we move on.
Meanwhile, Dana, tempers are flaring over on the House side as well. Listen to this fiery exchange after the House hearing on the Benghazi attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: What is clear is that this administration including the president himself has intentionally misinformed, read that lied, to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Now President Obama has the gall to float the name as possible secretary of state the name of the person who is the actual vehicle used to misinform the American people during this crisis. The arrogance and dishonesty reflected in all of this is a little bit breathtaking. And it's about time that the president of the United States decide to level with the American people. Let's find out the facts. Let's not stonewall this issue and cover up mistakes as appears to be happening today.
REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: They requested for worldwide security $440 million more than you guys wanted to provide, a quarter of a billion dollars in security upgrades that you refused to make in this committee.
And then you have the audacity to come here and say, why wasn't the protection of these people provided for? And the answer is because you damn didn't provide it. You reduced what the administration asked for to protect these people. And the answer to the question is, how do you protect these people? It costs money, believe it or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Gary Ackerman, the congressman from New York, obviously very angry at Dana Rohrabacher and the other Republican congressman you heard.
Dana Bash is still with us. She's on Capitol Hill.
There's a Senate Intelligence Committee under way right now. They're getting classified briefing as well. What are you learning, Dana?
BASH: That's right. This is a group of officials from the administration, from the CIA, including the acting CIA director, the director of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper. And others from the State Department have been going around. They had a very long meeting on the House side for the House Intelligence Committee this morning.
By the way, this is the one that General Petraeus was supposed to be doing coming back after Congress was gone and really giving them the details that they have about what happened in Benghazi, why the intelligence community may have not had the correct initial information about what happened there and what they know now. That briefing on the Senate side is going on as we speak.
And as I mentioned, we're going to hear from the chairwoman and the ranking Republican. What we do know is that they are seeing a video that was obtained from the consulate. It was a closed-circuit video that intelligence officials are hoping will shed light on what really happened and why the information they had at the time may not be what it turned out to be in the end.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. We will have much more on this part of the story coming up. Dana Bash reporting. Other important news we're following right now, senior administration officials telling CNN the White House is working behind the scenes to try to keep the conflict between Israel and Hamas from escalating. Rockets and missiles are flying back and forth between Gaza and Israel with multiple deaths on both sides now.
And right now, there's fear this could become an all-out ground war.
Our senior international correspondent, Sara Sidner, is in Gaza City for us right now.
Sara, what is the very latest on this extremely tense situation?
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have just heard just moments ago, Wolf, another airstrike, a huge boom and then a black plume of smoke. You can actually see that with your eyes even though it is very dark here now.
As we're getting information in just right now from that latest airstrike, we are hearing that there are several people who have been killed, perhaps several children. We're still looking into that right now.
This is just one in a series of airstrikes today that have been a barrage of blasts all day long, followed by huge plumes of black smoke. But we have also seen dozens upon dozens of rockets leaving this area and areas all along the Gaza Strip into Israel.
I want to let you hear that. OK. That is exactly -- all right. I'm going to move out of the way. I'm going to let you get a look here. I'm going to let you get a look at what is going on. Now, I can see the black smoke. It's difficult too capture on camera. But you saw that flash.
This is what we have been dealing with all day. We have also been dealing with -- I'm sorry -- the power has just gone out. We have been dealing with power outages, Wolf. But this feels like war. It may not have been declared, but it feels like war to the civilians who live here. People are locked in their homes. All of the businesses have been closed.
They have had power-outs. There's a lot of fear here by the civilians, as you might imagine. Also, on the other side of the border, we spent some time there this morning. We saw people hunkering down when they heard the sirens in Southern Israel. We saw ourselves dozens of rockets coming over being blasted out of the sky by the Iron Dome.
So an actual full-scale war may not have been declared, but it certainly feels like that to the civilians that are dealing with this for the past couple of days. We know that there have been more than 200 rockets fired into Israel. And there have been more than 120 airstrikes that have come over Gaza. You just heard the very latest one just now, Wolf.
BLITZER: That was an Israeli airstrike that we just saw and heard behind you? Is that right, Sara?
SIDNER: That's what we understand, because here's what's been happening.
We have been listening to this time and time again. And it still -- it sounds like the exact same sound we have been hearing. First, you usually hear the sound of a plane. And then you hear what are massive blasts, very, very different from when for example you hear a rocket coming out of -- even a Grad rocket coming out of Gaza. Those have a very different sound and, of course, a very different sound from small-arms fire, that a major blast.
We have been listening to the sound all day long and seeing the consequences of it here in Gaza. But, again, the folks in Southern Israel also dealing with rockets raining down on them. We know that three people have been killed in an apartment complex in Southern Israel.
And so far, we know at least 15 people have been killed here. Some of those were targeted attacks where Israel was looking for leaders of Hamas, looking for militants. They found nine of them. As we understand it, nine of the 15 who have been killed were indeed militants here in Gaza, Wolf.
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Sara. We're going to stay in close touch with you.
Sara Sidner is in Gaza City for us.
Later in our next hour, we're going to go behind the scenes to Southern Israel. As Sara points out, rockets from Gaza are flying into Southern Israel. We will have a live report from the scene. That's coming up in our next hour as well. This is an extremely, extremely tense situation that easily could escalate into all-out war. Israeli troops moving closer and closer towards Gaza. There could be a ground invasion, we're told as well.
All right, we're watching this very, very closely.
Other news we're watching as well, environmentalists hoped President Obama's reelection might lead to some real progress when it comes to climate change. But they're not quite as optimistic today after hearing what the president now says on the subject. Stand by for that.
BLITZER: We're watching what's happening in Gaza right now. There's breaking news, Israeli airstrikes, Palestinian Hamas shelling of southern Israel. We're getting back to our correspondents in Gaza and Israel shortly. But the breaking news continuing.
In the meantime, let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File". Jack, what's going on?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, imagine getting in your car in the morning for your commute to work and having the car drive you while you answer e-mails or send text messages or even sleep?
"Fortune" magazine reports on the so-called driverless revolution and how self-driving cars will soon affect ordinary Americans as well as a wide range of industries. Google's fleet of self-driving cars have already traveled 300,000 miles. There have been no accidents when the cars were controlled by a computer. Pardon me. And only one fender bender when there was a human behind the wheel.
These customized cars use a combination of GPS radar and a 3D mapping camera on the roof that can see traffic signals, lanes and pedestrians. Cars that drive themselves are coming. It's just a question of when. Most of the big carmakers are hard at work on self- driving models. And three states, California, Nevada and Florida, have already made self-driving vehicles legal as long as the human's sitting in the driver's seat in case of a emergency. That's a good idea.
Meanwhile, these cars could lose worker productivity. The average commuter spends 250 hours a year behind the wheel. Or they could come in handy after you've had a couple cocktails.
Self-driving trucks could transform the trucking industry. Picture long lines of self-driving 18-wheelers traveling down the highway just a few inches apart, no drivers, no stops for gas or food, it could boost fuel efficiency as much as 20 percent. We're going to need to keep driving ourselves though for a while longer. Experts say the driverless cars should be more common in another 10 to 15 years when the costs come down.
Here's the question, how would you feel about riding in a car that drives itself?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
I don't know if I'd trust a car to drive itself.
BLITZER: Me either. I wouldn't feel good about it at all, Jack. Not at all. We'll see what happens. Thank you.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: President Obama got a firsthand look today at parts of New York that were hardest hit by superstorm Sandy. Thousands of New Yorkers -- yes, thousands of New Yorkers still don't have power two and a half weeks after Sandy hit. The storm is raising serious questions about the government's response, even bigger questions about weather patterns, at least for some.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar -- actually, Brianna is not yet available I'm told. But we do expect to get her up soon. We'll speak to Brianna Keilar momentarily.
We'll also have a quick check of some of the day's other top stories. That's coming up, including Mitt Romney -- did he hurt himself with gaffes during his presidential campaign? Is he hurting the Republican Party right now with his latest comments? The Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, he's standing by to join us live.
BLITZER: We've reconnected with Brianna Keilar. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is watching what's going on in New York. Right now, the president wrapping up a visit to New York in the aftermath of the superstorm Sandy.
What happened today, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he got a firsthand look at the devastation in New York both on Staten Island, as well as in the devastated Queens neighborhood of Breezy Point, where you know all of those homes burnt down. And the thing is, during the election climate change was not really a topic that got a lot of attention. But it was very much thrust into the discussion just days before the election when Sandy made landfall in this very rare storm in New England.
So, yesterday at the White House, President Obama was asked about federal response. And he was also asked about his goals for how to deal with climate change and energy. And he seemed to really downplay any expectations of sweeping energy and climate change legislation, saying instead that he was focusing first on the economy and creating jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it has impacted (VIDEO GAP) as a consequence I think we have an obligation to future generations to do something about it. And understandably I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that. I won't go for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, Wolf, President Obama said that more needs to be done. But he says he wants to have a national conversation talking to scientists, elected officials, engineers -- so keeping it very broad, not getting into specifics, not talking about the sweeping energy and climate change legislation.
But when you're talking to folks on both sides of this, those who are environmentalists, those who are in the energy industries, they seem to think that doesn't mean that he's not going to be taking action just that he'll be doing it through executive orders, through EPA -- EPA regulations and that kind of thing, really bypassing Congress because he doesn't see a way to move forward in that way, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar is watching all of this unfold at the White House, the president heading back from New York. Thanks very much for that. Mitt Romney's political career may be over, but is he causing a new problem for his Republican Party? I'll speak live with the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He's standing by.
And in his news conference, President Obama spoke to reporters about a letter he received, one that gave him hope. You're going to hear from the man who wrote that letter. He's standing by in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney speaking out about his election loss for the first time and blaming it in part on what he calls, quote, "gifts" -- gifts that the president gave to supporters. Let's talk about that and more with the Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He's the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Congratulations by the way. I guess I got to say congratulations on getting that job, Governor. But thanks very much for joining us.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be back on the air with you.
BLITZER: All right. Let me play a little clip of what he said to some of his big donors that's causing quite an uproar. Here's Mitt Romney. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE : What the president, the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, that's caused a lot of uproar -- gifts that the president gave. I guess the implication is, was he bribing some of that coalition minorities, Hispanics? Was he bribing young women with all sorts of, quote, "gifts"? What do you make of that?
JINDAL: Wolf, this is completely unhelpful. This is not where the Republican Party needs to go.
Look, we want -- if you want voters to like you, the first thing you've got to do is like them first. And it's certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. That's really certainly not a way to show them that you respect them, you like them.
We need to stop talking down to voters. As a Republican Party, we need to fight for 100 percent of the electorate. Not 53 percent, not 52 percent but 100 percent. We've got to stop trying to divide people into different groups by race, by gender, by class.
Instead we've got to show them that our conservative principles will help them pursue the American dream, enter the middle class, do better. This is completely not helpful. This is not where the Republican Party needs to go.
We need to stop being the dumb party. We need to offer smart, conservative, intelligent ideas and policies. That's how we win elections. We don't win elections by insulting voters.
Again, if you want voters to like you, you got to like them first. Telling them their votes were bought is not helpful. It's not true. This is not where the Republican Party needs to go next.
BLITZER: It sort of reminded me, Governor, I don't know about you, but it reminded me about that really controversial comment he was overheard at that fundraiser in Boca Raton last May down in Florida, speaking about that 47 percent who were effectively, I'm paraphrasing, what moochers, including recipients of Social Security, veterans, anyone who gets government assistance if you will, that caused him an enormous amount of problems during the campaign as well. Do you see a similarity here and there?
JINDAL: Absolutely. Look, as a party, as a country, we're an aspirational party, we're an aspirational country, we're a country that believes our best days are ahead of us.
We're a country that believes everybody wants their children to do better than their parents have done. What that means is we want our kids to get a great education, and high paying jobs. I believe people on food stamps and government assistance don't want to be there.
They're there because they don't have the ability to get better paying jobs. It's our responsibility to adopt policies that grow the economy, that give them the education and opportunities to have a better quality of life.
I don't think we get advance this discussion or debate by insulting folks. Look, the Republicans we need to stick to our principles, but we need to treat other people with respect. Even those we don't agree with.
We need to show them we respect them and their beliefs. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Republicans said a lot of dumb things. We need to condemn the remarks. You saw it in Indiana and Missouri.
As a party we need to stop talking down to voters. We have great ideas on school choice on putting great teachers in the classrooms, energy independence, a lower flatter tax hole without the loopholes and breaks for the wealthy and the special treatment.
Let's go out and put those policies out. Let's actually have an honest intellectual debate. Let's stop insulting people. We have too many people on unemployment. They're not there because they want to be there.
They're there because there are not good paying jobs in this economy. Let's grow the economy and symptom insulting the voters.
BLITZER: Did you convey these same thoughts to the governor when he was the Republican presidential nominee?
JINDAL: Look, I don't know how much benefit there is to continue to look back. Mitt Romney is a good man, honorable man reality is I don't think his campaign laid out a good vision how his policies would benefit every single American.
I think they ran a campaign based largely on his biography. It's a very impressive biography and very impressive resume. But at the end of the day presidential elections are about visions and policies.
I think now as a party we either need to congratulate the president on his win. It was an impressive win. As a party we not only need to look forward and fight for every single vote in America.
And the way we do that is to treat people with respect. We don't need to be like the Democratic Party. We don't need to divide people into special interest groups, or racial groups first or gender groups or geographic or class groups.
We treat every American as an individual. We don't think demographics is destiny. We say the circumstances of your birth don't determine your outcome as an adult. We want every American to have the opportunity to pursue the American dream.
We're going to treat them with respect and offer policies to help them and their children do better. That's what we have to be to be a majority party to win elections. The reason we have 30 Republican governors is they are working to improve schools in their states.
They are working to balance their budgets, grow private sector economies. We've got ideas that work. We don't need two Democratic or liberal parties in this country. We need two parties. The Republican Party doesn't need to moderate our principles. We do need to modernize our party, however.
BLITZER: One final question, Governor, before I let you go. Comprehensive immigration reform, all of a sudden Republicans and Democrats are talking about it. Lindsey Graham, he's trying to get together with Chuck Schumer to see if there's an opportunity.
Are you in favor right now of major legislation that would deal with comprehensive immigration reform, securing the border, but also having a pathway to citizenship for some of those illegal immigrants who are in the country?
JINDAL: Wolf, several things. Absolutely, I am for comprehensive approach. Let's stop making this a political issue. Let's solve this issue. It does have to include securing the borders. Look, the president four years ago said he was going to present a proposal.
Let him present that proposal so we aren't negotiating with ourselves. But we in the Republican Party need to be clear with the American people that we welcome folks that want to come to this country and follow the rules and work hard and make this a better stronger country. Our legal immigration system is broken. We need to dramatically increase the number of people we allow in this country legally. It's good for them. It's good for our country. Right now our immigration policies aren't good for our country. They're not good for families.
We have folks that come here. We educate them and kick them out of the country. As a Republican Party we need to be very clear. We welcome those folks that want to come here and make this a better stronger country.
It takes a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and risk to move your family here, to take those chances, to want to get good paying jobs and work very hard. Those are the kinds of people that have made this a great country.
Whether your family's been here 5 minutes or hundreds of years, that's not what makes you an American. That's what's kept us apart from the rest of the world. It's something unique and exceptional for our country.
So yes, I think there's an opportunity for a comprehensive approach. I don't think we should be negotiating with ourselves. Let the president put his ideas on the table. It's got to include securing the borders first.
It's got to include substantial increase for legal immigrants -- for legal immigration. Let's stop kicking people out that want to make this a better country.
BLITZER: Governor Jindal, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck with the new assignment as leader of the National Republican Governors Association. We appreciate it very much.
JINDAL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bobby Jindal is the governor of Louisiana, very popular in his home state. A lot of folks already speculating, is it too early to start looking ahead to 2016? We'll see.
Lawmakers get a first look at surveillance video of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. So what does it show? I'm going to ask one U.S. senator who actually saw the video. He's standing by live.
BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN contributors, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Hilary, you just heard the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. He really is very critical of Mitt Romney, the campaign he ran. What did you make of that?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there's just a whole lot of distancing going on, pretty typical after a losing campaign. I thought, you know, Governor Jindal spoke well about some of the mistakes Republicans have made. A little bit of a mixed message. I think this was a values election, not the demographic election that some people like GOVERNOR JINDAL and Mitt Romney have been talking about. So I think he needs to be clearer about those values.
He did say we ought to not be protecting tax cuts -- you know, tax policies for the wealthy. I think the challenge for somebody like Governor Jindal who just is sort of sitting back and criticizing now is to take on Republicans that are relevant because Mitt Romney's no longer relevant.
Go to John Boehner, go to Mitch McConnell and say let's promote these policies that help poor people that help the middle class that promote jobs. That's what the president's been trying to do.
That's what he's calling for in saying that the wealthy should pay their fair share. It'd be nice of some of these moderate thinkers or new thinkers like Jindal actually held the Republicans who are in power to task a little more instead of kicking the last guy down the road.
BLITZER: You tweeted this, Ana Navarro, livid at Romney saying Obama won because offered minorities "gifts." As if he didn't alienate Hispanics enough while running. Look in mirror, Mitt. Those are pretty blunt words yourself. Ana, go ahead and talk.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I really am very upset about these comments that Mitt Romney made. I think first of all they show him to have sour grapes. It is not a gracious exit for a man who just lost. I think you need to look at yourself. You need to look at your campaign.
Go and look at the film. How did you run your campaign towards Hispanics, towards African-Americans? Are you satisfied with what you did? Does it correlate with the amount you got? Also, it's frankly offensive.
I can tell you as a Hispanic Republican, I find those comments offensive. You cannot be so condescending to a big hunk of voters by ethnicity or by race. That's just wrong. I found everything that Bobby Jindal said today, Wolf, refreshing, principled, morally correct, inclusive, just the right kind of tone, the right voice I want to hear as a Republican going forward.
And I think he is a very relevant Republican, Bobby Jindal. Not only is he a sitting governor, but he's also the head of the Republican Governors Association.
He's got -- you know, they've got an entire meeting going on in Las Vegas right now where they're looking at what some of the mistakes made were in this campaign and there are some.
BLITZER: Very blunt comments from Bobby Jindal. All right, guys, thanks very much. We got to get to another huge story we're following right now. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have just gotten out of a hearing where they saw surveillance video of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri is a member of the intelligence committee. He's joining us now from Capitol Hill. Thanks very much, Senator, for coming in. What can you tell us about this surveillance video?
SENATOR ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: You know, I think the clock is maybe the thing that the video continues to establish, how long it was from the time this event started to frankly the last two people were killed in that mortar attack.
And it's a lot of time. It's several hours before that happens. I think maybe the violence at the mission itself where the ambassador was killed happened relatively early.
But then there's a big block of time between then and the time that the last two American lives are lost. One of the questions we need to ask is why can't we respond quicker than that? Why can't we get systems to people quicker than that?
And obviously the ongoing question is why wasn't there are more security there before this event occurred? And then, Wolf, there's a question about what people thought happened, when it happened and what they were reporting to the public and to the intelligence committees for several days later.
BLITZER: Look, from the video that you saw this surveillance video, could you -- is it conclusive that over those several hours as you say, some say six, seven, eight hours of video that was taken, could you conclude this was a crowd spontaneously reacting to that anti- Muslim video that had been posted on YouTube? Or was this a coordinated attack by terrorists with mortars? Could you make that out from the video?
BLUNT: Well, I think from the video substantiates the more informed reporting, which is from the people on the scene and that is it clearly was not a demonstration. Now, how coordinated these attacks were from the things that started at roughly, you know, 9:30 in the evening until things that went well into the next morning, it's hard to establish how coordinated that was.
But it's not hard to establish that there was no demonstration, there was no crowd. When this started, it started as an act of violence. And that should have been obvious to anybody talking about that from the very start.
BLITZER: Based on what you heard in this closed door briefing, based on the video you just saw, does it change your perception at all about the bottom line that the administration had taken that for several days they weren't sure what happened and then that following Sunday after the killings in Benghazi, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said what she said about the spontaneous reaction?
BLUNT: Well, I've always thought based on what we heard from the very start that there was a big disconnect between the information I thought I was looking at and what the president said yesterday they had.
I thought the most interesting thing in the president's comments yesterday was that Susan Rice had all of the information they had and related all of that information. That just doesn't seem reasonable to me.
If they did -- if that was all the information they had, I wonder why somebody at the White House wasn't asking more questions. And that may be the biggest question here as we go forward.
BLITZER: Are you with some of those Republicans like Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham who will do everything in their power to block her nomination as secretary of state if it goes forward?
BLUNT: Well, I think again, the question there is what did Ambassador Rice know? Why is that what she knew and why was she the person sent out to represent the administration?
The president doubled down on this yesterday by essentially saying she had the information we wanted to convey and she was representing him. So let's talk about him and I think probably that's what needs to happen here.
BLITZER: So you haven't made a final decision yet, is that right?
BLUNT: There's no nomination to talk about yet. I'm interested in what the president said yesterday, why he said it, why they would send her out with information that I think by that date was clearly not the information that should have been available to anybody that's briefing the president or representing the president.
BLITZER: Senator Blunt, thanks very much for coming out of that hearing and speaking with us. We appreciate it.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. The president shared his message with the worldwide audience. We're going to talk to the man who got quite a surprise after he wrote to the White House.
BLITZER: Thousands of people write to the president of the United States every year. But it's not often that their message gets passed onto a worldwide audience. That's exactly though what happened yesterday at President Obama's news conference. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It came from a man in Tennessee who began by writing that he didn't vote for me, which is OK. But what he said was even though he didn't give me his vote, he's giving me his support to move this country forward. He said that he'll back each of us regardless of party as long as we work together to make life better for all of us. And he made it clear that if we don't make enough progress, he'll be back in touch.
So my hope, he wrote, is that we can make progress in light of personal and party principles, special interest groups and years of business as usual, we've got to work together and put our differences aside. I couldn't say it better myself. That's precisely what I intend to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Steve Wise is the man who wrote that letter to the president. He's joining us now live from Nashville, Tennessee. Steve, let me read a line from the letter you wrote in an e-mail to the president.
I am hoping this e-mail does reach you, but I'm realistic that is most likely will not happen. How shocked were you when the president of the United States gave you that shout out yesterday?
STEVE WISE, CEO, I-DENTI-FIED: Well, I wasn't totally surprised when he did it because I'd gotten a call from the White House staff the day before asking if they had my permission to use the letter in the speech itself.
And they went through the details of what that would be and what he would say and how he was presenting it. So I got the shock out of my system the day before when I got that call.
BLITZER: It must have been a real shock. Did the president accurately describe what you wrote?
WISE: Yes, he did. That is the letter. If you've seen the letter, those are my exact words that he quoted. Some of the other stuff's paraphrased, but clearly represents the message I meant to deliver.
BLITZER: What compelled you to write directly to the president of the United States, a man you did not vote for?
WISE: Well, you know, we got after the election. And every day in starting up this business I'm doing here in Nashville, I deal with negotiations and having to compromise and work together with people to try to find common ground and deal with differences.
I felt that it was important that I reach out to my congresswoman and my senators and to the president himself and really let them know that, you know, my expectation now is that the election's over.
You know, the American people -- and I don't profess to speak for them, but me personally expect that they're going to get the job done now. That they're going to actually get by some of the party principles and special interests.
And things like that that I said in my letter and really make some progress at getting the decisions made that gets us to a better place. BLITZER: Why do you think Mitt Romney lost?
WISE: I believe in my estimation the Republican Party didn't connect with the American people. It's very clear that in my mind the demographic is changing. And for whatever reason and whatever the message is, it's not connecting effectively.
BLITZER: What does the Republican Party need to do now?
WISE: I think they need to really -- it's not just the Republicans. It's the Democrats also and I think it's the president also. They really need to look at what's -- what do we agree on? Where do we disagree?
And wherever we disagree, let's figure out where we can get some common ground. Let's figure out how we can meet in the middle. I mean, everybody's got their own constituents to deal with and all the other issues and baggage they've got to bring to the table.
And we really just need to sit down and talk through the issues and figure out how we solve this problem.
BLITZER: I wish that would happen. Good advice from Steve Wise. That's a good last name for yourself as well, Steve. Appreciate it very much.
WISE: Thank you.
BLITZER: You gave us all some wise advice.
Fear of an all-out ground war between Israel and Hamas. I'm going to speak to the Israeli ambassador to the United States. We'll get a live update from Southern Israel as well.
It's now being bombarded by rockets from Gaza. The Israelis are launching air strikes against targets in Gaza. Standby, fears of an escalating war emerging.
BLITZER: Jack's back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Interesting question this hour, how would you feel about riding in a car that drives itself? They're coming. They have them now and they'll be more widespread the next 10 or 15 years.
Kenneth in California, "If it solved the problem of driving under the influence of alcohol, texting, talking on the phone and shutting up my wife, the backseat driver, it would be wonderful."
Sean in Thousand Oaks writes, "Thanks to our obsession with cell phones, texting, GPS devices that tell you to drive into lakes and anything in general that will make you more likely to turn your car into a $30,000 tree decoration most cars already drive themselves at least in a sense so why not?" Randy writes, "Fantastic. Until some 12-year-old decides it would be funny to hack into the computer and send me down the freeway at 100- mile-an-hour."
Terry in Virginia, "No way, no how, never, never. I don't even trust cruise control on my car." Andy in Atlanta, "Maybe when I'm 80, but right now I like to drive."
Eugene in California, "Jack, sounds good until a glitch kills scores of drivers. We can't even make an electric car let alone cars that drive themselves maybe in another 20 years or so."
Mel in Houston says, "I wouldn't have any problem riding in one as long as there was a computer override button. There are major hurdles to overcome before this kind of program car becomes common place."
And Pee writes, "Yes, the car will take the place of my wife's turn to drive on long road trips. Bring it on." If you want to read more about this, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack. Thank you.